Artist surprised by outcry over his sketch at Esplanade

A drawing by Mr Vincent Leow (above) was removed from the Community Wall (right) last week after members of the Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family group accused the Esplanade of "promoting bestiality".
A drawing by Mr Vincent Leow was removed from the Community Wall (above) last week after members of the Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family group accused the Esplanade of "promoting bestiality".ST PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN
A drawing by Mr Vincent Leow (above) was removed from the Community Wall (right) last week after members of the Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family group accused the Esplanade of "promoting bestiality".
A drawing by Mr Vincent Leow (above) was removed from the Community Wall last week after members of the Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family group accused the Esplanade of "promoting bestiality".

He says work, inspired by farmers giving up land for development, not intended to offend

The artist behind a sketch that was recently removed from the Esplanade, where it had been on display since April 13, said he was "surprised" by the outcry from some members of the public over the drawing.

The drawing shows what appears to be a nude, pink human figure and a creature that resembles a rooster.

In his first public comments on the controversy, Singapore artist Vincent Leow said there was no intention to cause offence with the piece.

"This work was made in 1989, when I was working in The Artists Village," the 57-year-old told The Straits Times.

Founded by contemporary artist Tang Da Wu in 1988, the artist colony was converted from a kampung space in Lorong Gambas.

Working in a studio that was previously a chicken coop, Mr Leow said his interest in how farmers have had to give up their land for development was the inspiration behind the "abstract sketch".

It was displayed on the Community Wall on the third level of the Esplanade and also featured several other loose drawings by the same artist. Entitled BLANK, the exhibition of Mr Leow's sketches and loose drawings are from his 30-year journey as an artist.

The sketch was removed after the group Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family (SDMF) accused the Esplanade of "promoting bestiality" in an area where "many kids walk past".

SDMF, which is known to be critical of the local Pink Dot advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, had flagged Mr Leow's sketch in a post on its Facebook page on June 5.

Mr Leow said the purpose of the sketch was to explore the relationship between man and his natural environment, and the way we think about nature and development.

There was "no specific reason" for the nude portrayal, he said, and it was not unusual, as artists usually depict humans in their "purest form".

He said he "did not understand why this small group of people can have this weird and perverse perception of this work... and influence people into thinking this perception."

The Esplanade announced it was removing the drawing on June 6, after a discussion with Mr Leow.

Mr Leow said he "has fully understood and agreed with Esplanade to not continue to display the artwork at the Community Wall".

Since the sketch was removed, the art community has rallied around Mr Leow, while SDMF has continued attacking the Esplanade and Mr Leow on its Facebook page.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2018, with the headline 'Artist surprised by outcry over his sketch at Esplanade'. Print Edition | Subscribe